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Women in Security Feature: Tia Eskandari - “I am here to help make a difference”

Women in Security Feature: Tia Eskandari - “I am here to help make a difference” Eskandari, director of service for Southwest Region at Allied Universal, talks role models, diversity, challenges and more

Women in Security Feature: Tia Eskandari - “I am here to help make a difference”

YARMOUTH, Maine—Tia Eskandari joined the security industry five years ago believing that she would land a role as a project manager or program manager. It turned out that service was where her security journey would begin.

Eskandari, the director of service for the Southwest Region at Allied Universal, told SSN, “Service is dynamic, and when your job is customer facing, no two days are ever the same as you can imagine. I have a strong background in operations and process management, and although I did not see it at first, it makes perfect sense to be where I am now. My love for people, process improvement, and collaboration is what drives me to stay motivated, focused, and optimistic.”

Tia EskandariShe calls herself “a New Englander living in Los Angeles, so you can imagine how that would be for this die-hard Celtics fan.” In her spare time, Eskandari says she is “always pouring into my professional learning, utilizing my Women in Security Forum 2022 Scholarship to pursue several certifications that I put off in recent years.”

As part of Security Systems News’ and the Security Industry Association (SIA) Women in Security Forum’s (WISF’s) continuing series highlighting the contributions of women in security, the following is an exclusive Q&A with Eskandari:

SSN: What is your current position and what is your role and responsibilities?

Eskandari: As the director of service for the Southwest Region, I am responsible for driving the overall execution and performance of the field service staff. That includes service responses that proceed according to plans, contracts, MSAs, schedules, and all business objectives. I manage a talented team dedicated to providing the best overall service experience for our customers. Our service territory spans six states.

SSN: How did you get into and what inspired you to stay in the security industry?

Eskandari: After 18 years in retail management, I decided it was time for a change or what is now known as a “career pivot”. I wanted to pursue something different, and a former colleague told me about his wife’s experience working as a project manager. Having done this role earlier in my career, I wanted to explore the opportunity further.

Through the recommendation and referral of a very close friend, I joined G4S Secure Integration in 2018 as a contract employee working toward the goal of obtaining my PMP. A short time after joining the company, I was approached by leadership to join the team permanently as the regional service manager. I had to quickly learn how to navigate my way through this new industry without any technical knowledge. It was a fast-paced crash course on all things service, and of course, there were no handbooks available.

A former colleague and leader once said that to be great in your role you must always be curious. This holds especially true when you work in our industry. You may not always have the answers handy, but a curious person will seek them out. I would describe my first year in the role as organized chaos, but on the other side, I was a much more confident leader ready to tackle new challenges.

I am inspired by knowing that I am here to help make a difference and that there is a place for me to grow in this industry. It did not take me long to recognize that this was where I was meant to be long term.

SSN: What has your journey been like in a primarily male-dominated and historically non-diverse security industry?

Eskandari: Although I knew I enjoyed the path I was on, it was not always clear where it would lead. When I first joined my company, I walked into many rooms and did not see anyone that looked like me. I developed a serious case of imposter syndrome without realizing what that truly was at the time.

I took a lot of notes during meetings so I could later go back and research what was said when the technical terminology was being used. No one was slowing down for me, so it forced me to do the work to catch up. Luckily, I had a few amazing female colleagues in my corner - Carla Manzanilla and Maria Molina. We quickly formed our own little tribe and have strongly supported each other since day one.

Although I had vast managerial experience, Carla had an incredible amount of industry knowledge that Maria and I lacked. These relationships have taught me what female support should look and feel like. I felt safe to grow at my pace in this new environment.

I think it is also important to mention the apparent gap in the diversity of leadership roles, and this drives me the most. The seats at the top are few for people of color and underrepresented groups in the security industry. The opportunities are limited and it’s imperative that leaders challenge the way those seat selections are being made.

SSN: What have you found most challenging working in the security industry and how did you overcome it?

Eskandari: At first, it was my lack of technical knowledge. I initially turned the position down because I thought this put me at a disadvantage as a service manager. I learned quickly that was not the case at all. I found that the most challenging aspect of working in the security industry as a woman is not only having a voice but also having it be heard.

In many situations, I witnessed that it was acceptable for people to talk over others to get their point across to the room. I had to learn how to integrate myself into those conversations and speak with intent without feeling the need to speak over others. This communication strategy has been extremely beneficial for me, especially when sitting in those rooms where I am the only female at the table.

SSN: Have you had any role models who have helped you out along the way that you would like to mention?

Eskandari: I consider myself extremely lucky to have built so many great relationships throughout my professional career journey.

• My amazing husband and family are the biggest supporters of everything I do.

• My very first career mentor was a kind leader, Michael A. Guthrie III. He took a chance on me early in my career and taught me a great deal about being the type of leader that people will want to follow. We lost him a few years ago, but his advice will always stay with me. I often find myself saying to myself “What would Mike do?”.

• James Gallagher and the amazing women on our PSA Women’s Committee.

• Asya Watkins, founder of The Women of Project Management. I am inspired by all that she has accomplished and continues to provide for WOC in the project management community.

• All the women in my life who believe in and value the benefit of supporting other women.

• The many male allies I have in my corner that I can lean on as well. I believe in this industry we as women need men to speak on our behalf when we are not in the room.

There is a great book called “The Memo” by Minda Harts, and it perfectly describes what it means to be an ally or what she prefers to call a “success partner.” I have been blessed with the most supportive male colleagues throughout my career, and for that I am grateful. A special shoutout to Tracy Senstock and Philip Young for always standing in my corner.

SSN: What advice would you give other women thinking about getting into the industry or just starting out in the industry?

Eskandari: Jump in and know that you will find your tribe! It took me a few years into my recent career journey to realize that there were so many amazing organizations out there supporting women in security. Join them all and network every chance you get.

WISF, ASIS, PSA, IOBSE, PMI-LA, and SIA are just some of the organizations that I am proud to be involved in. We are building great momentum in these organizations, and it is so important that we continue to support other women looking to join our industry.

One other bit of advice I would give is to leave the imposter syndrome at home and know that you are enough. Sometimes our fear keeps us from making courageous choices due to self-doubt. I would say lean into that fear and do it anyway. Let that drive you and know that there are women here in this industry here to help.

SSN: What are your views on the industry moving forward, both from a diversity perspective and a technology and business perspective during these unpredictable times?

Eskandari: From a diversity perspective, I can see some progress being made. When I started in this industry five years ago, I did not see the representation that I see today. I believe that companies are hiring differently today than in the past. The focus has shifted away from the need for “industry experience.” Many people like me are being hired into companies based on transferrable skills and core values. The reason for this shift could lie within the competitiveness of our industry and the candidates that are currently available to fill roles. As a result of the shift in hiring practices, this has led to more diversified talent in our industry, which is nice to see.

From a technology and business perspective, times are changing, and the companies that best position themselves will do very well. I just attended my first ISC West show this year, and I was truly amazed by all the new technology out there. It was apparent to see that the customers’ demands have shifted as well, everyone wants the latest and greatest trends.

I felt optimistic about the growth of our industry even in these unprecedented times. If we can maintain customer satisfaction, I believe we will be in great shape.

SSN: What do you feel are the top trends, issues, or challenges facing the security industry today?

Eskandari: Training remains a challenge – keeping pace with the growth of technology. There is so much newness out there in the market, and many companies are finding it difficult to get teams trained fast enough.

The world has changed and the way we secure our people and assets has changed as well. Radar, gunshot detection, drone detection, and AI analytics are far more advanced than the old conversation of Analog vs IP. This will require in many cases a huge learning curve and companies will need to be invested in nurturing their talent to avoid attrition of key resources. The competition is fierce and the companies who work the hardest to bridge those training gaps will see the results through higher engagement, team morale, and stability.

SSN: Anything else that you would like to add?

Eskandari: These past five years in this industry have been so rewarding and the opportunities beyond unimaginable. Being chosen as a Women in Security Forum 2022 Scholarship recipient, 2023 WISF Power 100 Honoree, and afforded this opportunity to share my thoughts with you about promoting diversity in our industry are all blessings.

A very special thank you to Kasia Hanson, SIA Women in Security Forum, Security Systems News, and all the industry leaders supporting us every day. I believe together we can make a difference and be the change we wish to see.


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